Today Catwoman #37 hits stores of all kinds!
I’m actually both super thrilled and super nervous about this one. I’m very proud of it, and it’s a crucial chapter of the story we’re trying to tell, but if you’ve been worried about lingering consequences and serious choices in the wake of this arc, well, it’s time.
If I want to avoid spoilers, I think that’s really all the plot stuff I can talk about. If you’re curious, you can read a preview courtesy of The Mary Sue that will give you an idea of the position she’s in. (I laughed when I realized my “cold open” lasts five pages this issue; I’m the Sleepy Hollow cold open of comics today!)
I’ve been marking each issue with a quote relating to a powerful woman of history. Ching Shih, who features in this comic, has less of a paper footprint than the others I’ve used so far; my friend Stephanie Lai assisted in the search; we ended up finding some rather cyclical references to a few contemporary sources, and otherwise the research was often fascinating but not exactly riddled with first-person quotes. Rather than give up on Ching Shih – especially in an issue about living with hard choices about how to handle traitors – I decided to make the epigraph a bit more oblique. And given the emotional focus of this issue went farther afield than just Selina, it was a great opportunity for a quote that was more directly related to that subplot, and more melancholy than Ching Shih might have allowed. And damn if there isn’t a thing in the world sadder than Li Bai’s “Song of Changgan.” (He’s separated from Ching Shih by a thousand years, but the juxtaposition of the despairing bride and the pirate bride, both defined by their personal geography, is as nice a parallel as I could ask for.)
There definitely is not a thing in the world sadder than “Song of Changgan” when it’s translated by Stephanie Lai. The excerpt quoted in the issue itself provided the issue title, which honestly is my favorite so far of the run. Her version of the poem (deemed “the darkest timeline” version, for obvious reasons) is available at her blog, and I could not recommend it more highly. Some of the lines I didn’t use, but which pained/delighted me most when she sent me the full translation:
At 15 I began to smile; I wished our ashes and dirt to be together.
Cherishing, I carried around the words you sent,
I climb the pillar to see you.
At 16, you journeyed far from home,
Through Qutang Gorge and the rapids of Yu.
By May, I wasn’t able to feel;
I heard the sounds of despair.
In front of the door are the footsteps of your delayed departure,
Little by little, the mould grew up and over them.
You know what, let’s include some of Garry Brown’s inks for maximum sadness:
How happy am I to be writing an arc of Catwoman where I get to write in full-page scenes focusing on the infinite sadness of the stars? Pretty damn happy. Way happier than any of this looks.
(Note: While this Catwoman arc is about family matters, and the poem is explicitly about a married couple, I find this rather more a feature than a bug, for various reasons.)
The response to this arc of Catwoman has been incredibly gratifying, and this issue contains some of my favorite moments so far. Thanks so much to everyone who’s been reading along.